It was probably a good thing that our planned trip north had not happened. The winter weather had adversely affected a lot of travellers in those parts. Had we followed the original plans, we’d have been in Nambucca Heads when that area of the coast was hit by a very unpleasant East Coast Low. But maybe spring – and the post-Olympics period – might present more opportunities…
I began the month with an embarrassingly obvious pair of black eyes and bruised nose. Such that John refused to be seen in public with me, after one foray out where people looked at my injuries, then glared at him, and/or gave him a wide berth. Try explaining that “the dog did it!” I had been sitting watching TV. Couey was killing her knotted rope toy and lost control. The thing hit me at great speed, full in the face. Probably just lucky it wasn’t the TV screen…
The planning for son’s wedding in October was well under way. All very exciting. We were taken to lunch at their chosen venue – Wild Cattle Creek Winery in the Yarra Valley – to sample the quality of the food and wines. Beautiful setting. Great food.
My first ever venture into being treated by a chiropractor, praises of long sung by friend M, which had seemed initially promising, after a few weeks led to a cascading set of unwanted impacts, ultimately a really sore lower back and sciatic nerve playing up. She’d been supposed to be working on aching shoulders and upper back! I decided that all my previous scepticism about that type of treatment had been well founded, and never again…
John happily watched the Olympic Games from the comfort of his armchair at home. However, as in the past, he became bored as the days dragged on.
For respite from the constant stream of Olympic coverage, I took dog to the Animal Aid refuge at Coldstream, for a bath. Their grooming service is a fund raiser for their excellent work, so well worth supporting. This time, Couey actually appeared to enjoy the process. She came home with a big mauve bow tied to her collar and seemed quite proud of herself.
Look at me!
Our 25th wedding anniversary came – and went. I’d bought some books John wanted, as a present. Now that we were still home, he’d had another overnight stay in hospital for Round 2 of this current lot of skin cancer removals, three days beforehand, so was understandably distracted and totally overlooked the occasion. I let it slide by so he wouldn’t become upset by his oversight. The books would become his birthday present instead.
My stitching is so much neater than this!
Went for a day trip drive to Nagambie, where we met our house sitters for lunch at the Lakeside Centre. They’d replaced our cancelled booking with a sit at Echuca, so Nagambie was roughly in the middle, for all of us. The lunch was unremarkable but catching up with T and A again was great. On our way home, called in at Tahbilk Winery and purchased some bottles to take home. On 30 August, the stitches from John’s most recent round of surgery were removed. That gave us a little trip opportunity, before the bowls season cranked up in earnest.
Bus went to local Toyota for a service. Last time we had one of those, they could not check the brake condition, because they couldn’t get the wheel nuts undone. Since then John had bought the nut cracker – torque multiplier. That went with Bus, and he gave the mechanic a demonstration on how to use same. So brakes got checked, along with all else. The only thing found to be wrong was a blown front light bulb. Since we never drove it at night, that was not something we’d noticed. They had to remove the bull bar, though, to replace it!
Bus came home all checked over, and with lots of lovely clean new fluids.
For a while now, I had been looking in pet shops, for a replacement portable dog bed. The one we had been using, that came with dog, was already broken back then – guess that’s why it was given to us? It was quite wobbly. Over time, the mat part had just about worn through.
Once again, the internet to the rescue, and I found exactly the sort of thing wanted, and bought it online. When the parcel was delivered John unpacked it – and Couey jumped on the bed before he even had it fully on the floor. Definitely got the dog seal of approval.
So when are we going?
For quite a while, I had been toying with the idea of getting “something extra” to monitor for loss of coolant from the radiator. A couple of past incidents had made us very aware of the catastrophic consequences this can have on a diesel engine.
Years ago, when we were still working and had a Hilux, the mobile mechanic we used then to service it, didn’t tighten – or left off altogether – the lower radiator plug. Next day, John set off for work, but didn’t get there. That was when we found out what many people still don’t know – the normal temperature gauge does not show the engine cooking itself, if there is no coolant! It only shows the coolant temperature. On that occasion, a very expensive engine re-build was covered by the mechanic’s insurance.
More recently. friend M wrecked her Troopy’s engine, in northern NSW. For an unknown reason, the coolant was lost. As with the Hilux, nothing untoward showed on her temp gauge. Only the engine’s dying alerted her to a problem. She took a chance and had a re-conditioned engine installed, as the quickest option available. Still a costly exercise, and not all that satisfactory. It was that engine that died last year, stranding her on the Tanami Track.
After yet more research, I decided to get a Watch Dog. (Not a furry friend for Couey.) This device was, basically, attached under a screw that was already part of the engine, and monitors the engine temperature. I received prompt and excellent service from the company that makes them – literally next day delivery. We had a mobile mechanic install the device and were pleased with his work.
So, yet another gauge/alarm on the gadget central that is our dashboard – fortunately, a large one! It was direct wired, though; we already had enough cigarette lighter plug-in type things using the little power board.
I just hoped it was a more successful innovation than the tyre pressure monitors had been. The alarm signal was certainly loud enough. It came on when the ignition was turned off and went for what seemed ages because it was so piercing.
After getting home from the Porepunkah trip, we added to the “to do” list: get both Bus and Terios serviced. Get new tyres for Terios.
It was our intention to leave in July, for a trip exploring the NSW coast north of Newcastle. Had our house sitters booked – seven weeks was all they could spare us, this time, being so heavily booked. That would do us.
Took the Terios to our local tyre dealer. Told him not to freak out when he saw the ages of two of the tyres on it. Three were 2002 manufactured, and two were 2007. 2002 tyres on a 2006 vehicle? Somebody pulled a swifty somewhere…
They all still had a fair amount of tread, but I really wanted the security of having four new ones. The best of the 2007 tyres went onto the spare wheel, though. All done, aligned, balanced. Tick off one item.
The Terios went for a service at the local Suzuki service centre. The only issue found was that it needed a new air con fan belt, which they had to get in. Apparently this was no easy task because it was several weeks before they phoned to say it was in. Installation was nice and quick, while I waited there.
Winter school holidays at home… woodwork with grandson
Started planning the next trip. Decided on stays at Nambucca Heads, Yamba and Evans Head. We would take an inland route and get to the coast via the Hunter Valley and Newcastle – avoiding Sydney.
John was adamant that we had to be somewhere with good TV, for the period of the Olympic Games, from August 5-21. A three week stay at Nambucca Heads looked ideal. There was an attractive seeming park near the ocean breakwall, and close to the town. That would give me good places to walk dog and – hopefully – some interesting things to go and do while John was glued to the screen.
Unfortunately, the chosen park, when I phoned to book, confessed that their TV signal was poor. Immediate veto from the TV addict! The only other possible park was out of town. It had good TV and was duly booked. I would just have to put up with being away from easily accessible distractions for me, for the duration.
Booking the park at Evans Head provided another disappointment. We had stayed there in 1999, on our long trip, and I was looking forward to revisiting the area. The park had a separate section for travellers with dogs – and it had no en-suite sites. Just something we’d have to put up with. At least the park we booked at Yamba met all requirements.
While we were having breakfast outside, one of the neighbours came over and apologized for their noise last night, as they sat round their fire and talked. We attempted to reassure him that the Bus was well soundproofed and we hadn’t actually heard them at all. They had been very good about breaking up their gathering at 10pm too.
We had reached the limits of our time extensions possible here. In view of the long weekend crowds, I was now quite happy about that.
We didn’t want to go any further away from home than we now were, for just two nights. Tuesday was the absolute deadline to go home, with John due to go into hospital on Thursday. In the absence of any better ideas, decided to just go home today. It was a good decision – once we were clear of the tourist traffic heading for Bright, and around Myrtleford, there was not much traffic at all.
Left Porepunkah at 9.45am.
Old tobacco kilns Ovens Valley
There were lots of cyclists taking advantage of the lovely day and using the Rail Trail between Bright and Myrtleford. It would be a great ride to do – so much excellent scenery and the picturesque old tobacco kilns along the way.
Cyclist on the Rail Trail
As we passed through Myrtleford, I photographed the old butter factory. This had now become a tourist attraction, where butter making was demonstrated – a good idea and an educational experience for children whose ideas of the origins of milk and butter extend no further than the supermarket fridges. Guess I am one of a dying vintage of people who grew up helping mum make our own butter – after extracting the milk from its original source, by hand.
Old Butter Factory Myrtleford
Took the Hume Freeway south from Wangaratta. Stopped at the Euroa Service Centre for fuel and to give dog a drink. Diesel was $1.189 cpl.
There was a police drug testing van set up in Seymour, testing drivers going westwards.
From the outskirts of Seymour, to Yea, not a single vehicle came up behind us. John couldn’t believe it. Usually, on the bendy section around Trawalla, we end up with a tail back of traffic behind us.
Had a lunch stop at Yea. It did not look particularly crowded as we drove into the town, and was probably the least busy we’d ever encountered. John had the usual pie from the bakery. I had a very nice egg and lettuce multi grain roll.
Left Yea at 1.45pm, and were home by 3pm.
The usual unhitching of car and putting Bus back in place was complicated, because a visitor to neighbours had parked his car opposite our driveway entrance – on the very narrow road. Some prolonged horn sounding had no effect. I am still not sure how John managed to slot Bus into place without scraping that car, our gateposts, and Bus.
I had put Couey into the backyard before we began unpacking Bus. She apparently didn’t trust us not to be leaving again, without her, and managed to climb the nearly two metre high wooden fence, to reach us. Too damned athletic! Now that she knew she could do this, we would have to put a temporary higher barrier there, to tide us over until we get a new fence put in there – one really high and made of less climbable metal. Otherwise, every time one of us goes out, dog would be following.
Thus ended this trip. There would not be any more for a while, due to surgery and recuperation.
Until today, all our riverside walks with dog have been westwards, along a track on the bank, towards Porepunkah. This morning, I went the other way. It was not so obvious, from the park, that there was a track in that direction. Dog and I found it was a nicer walk than the one we had been doing. It followed a line of bushland, between the river and the back fences of the houses that front the main road. Those houses have a great location, with back access to the river. Some of them would appear to have water rights from the Ovens too – I saw a couple of places where pumps had been set up.
Because all the smells were novel, and because there were several places where she could look yearningly at the river, dog went further than was usual on these morning walks, so it was a good long one. But eventually, thoughts of breakfast intruded and she refused to go any further- as was the norm.
I thought about driving into Bright to buy the Saturday papers, then thought of the crowds that would be there, and decided to go without. Last time we’d been here, we’d gone to the markets at Wandiligong. I wasn’t keen on going this time, knowing that we’d have to park a long way from the action and then carry any purchases the long way back.
So, it was another lazy day round camp.
The colours of autumn
With hindsight, it might have been better to have left yesterday morning, before the hordes descended on the place – and before the nightly rate went up!
I sat out in the sun, read, and worked on the blanket. Occasionally, I had to glare and growl at little brats who came running through the site, taking a short cut back to their cabin. At that stage, Couey was inside Bus with John. I didn’t want to have her tethered outside, as just her size and blackness would have scared said brats. I was very tempted, but didn’t want anyone complaining that dog had frightened them – just by being. Or coming off their speeding bikes in fright – though, again, the thought was tempting.
A new set of occupants set up on the vacant site on our awning side. An offroad camper trailer. Family, with two young children, and grandparents in a caravan on a more distant site. The camper trailer took them ages to set up – far longer than a caravan would have. Very fiddly. The children were much better behaved and supervised than those of the trail biking/camp kitchen drinking variety.
In less crowded times
In the afternoon, took Couey for a walk in the new direction. I wanted to show John this more enjoyable track. It also had the benefit that all the camp brats seemed to go the other, more obvious way along the river.
We found a place where Couey could have some stick fetching fun in the river for a while. Then kept going. Unfortunately, around a bend there was a man standing knee deep in the middle of the river, fly fishing. Dog was instantly into the stream, to join in this great new game with the big stick! The fisherman was not impressed – he did not share Couey’s view that he was her new best friend. Probably neither did any trout that may have been in the vicinity. We managed to call her back to us and found a new place, further upstream, where she could play.
Back at camp, the several sets of parents of the bratty little kids had re-occupied the camp kitchen and were having a drinking session. The kids got more tired and more noisy – and my temper got shorter. By great contrast, the various offspring of our Indian neighbours were so well behaved and civilized.
We had steaks with peppercorn sauce for tea.
TV football again in the evening. Our neighbours had their gathering around their fire brazier. It was a really cold night.
The first part of the morning was lazy. After my breakfast and coffee, sitting outside, I read for a while. John had a long sleep in. Dog elected to join him in Bus – after I’d done her morning walk, of course.
Then, it was moving day for us. Carried our gear over to the site diagonally behind, then put in the awning and moved Bus around there. I confined Couey – and her loud complaining that we might be going somewhere without her – to the Terios. Nicely muffled.
The new site was better than the one we’d been on, in terms of size. We were now no longer on a corner, with vehicles and vans coming too close to the front corner of Bus. There was more room for the car, and the dog.
The down side was that we were right under some lovely big trees, busily dropping autumn leaves in great volume.
After setting up again, just lazed around for much of the day. John spent time on his laptop. I did some crochet. Not long before we came away, I received a parcel of wool from Bendigo. The crochet patchwork blanket that I’d made, a while ago, for the younger grandson, had been so well received that I had been asked to make a similar one for the family to gift to an expectant friend. We’d agreed they would buy the wool and I’d do the work. I was happy to have the project.
New site before we moved – and before the holiday influx
Around lunch time, new occupants arrived for the site we’d vacated. It appeared they were rather novice campers, as they fuffled around putting up a brand new tent, trying to work around the cement slab. John took pity on the man who was trying to hammer in tent pegs with a small rock, and took across our block hammer for him to use. It was appreciated.
They turned out to be the advance guard of a group of families – all sub-continental – who arrived, one lot at a time, through till about 9pm. With one exception, they proceede3d to put up tents, occupying seven sites on three sides of us. Almost surrounded! One family occupied a cabin opposite, the man making comments to the others to the effect that camping was not for him – somewhat less politely than this, though. The group set up a gazebo, and a fire brazier – the latter on the site next to us. They were all very nice people but – as one of them said to us, later – “Indians are noisy people.”
The en-suite site next to us was empty overnight.
Mid-afternoon, John felt like a drive, so we set off up the Buckland Valley. More superb autumn tree displays. Apple orchards too, extending towards the flank of Mt Buffalo, in the distance.
Buckland Valley road
We eventually drove out of the farmed parts of the valley and into native forest. Crossed a bridge over the little Buckland River, but did not go much beyond that, after the road turned unsealed. Eventually, this track beside the Buckland River heads up into the Barry Range and onto the High Plains, but this was not an occasion for adventurous rough driving. We backtracked.
Mt Buffalo from Buckland Valley
At Porepunkah, took the Back Germantown Road, that follows the northern side of the Ovens River to beyond Bright. Turned right by Bright and crossed the Ovens River bridge to the main part of town.
Ovens Valley farmland
Located the pizza shop that would provide tonight’s tea. Its menu was amongst the material I’d previously collected at the Visitor Centre. It looked nicely extensive.
The town was really busy, already.
I did a quick pick up of a couple of items at the supermarket, then we went back to camp, in time for Couey’s afternoon walk and play in the river.
Between Bright and the caravan park, the traffic coming towards us and Bright was a line worthy of peak hour in Melbourne!
The Autumn Festival events began tonight. It was also the start of the long weekend.
New arrivals in the park included some campers who had brought in quad bike type machines on the backs of utes and on trailers. There was a group with lots of trail bikes between them, too. Clearly, the forest trails and fire access tracks in the surrounding mountains were in for a massive assault over the coming days.
By late afternoon, the noise levels in the hitherto peaceful park had risen greatly. And we remembered why we liked to avoid popular places at holiday times! The motorized monstrosities seemingly had to all be turned on to see if they had somehow stopped working since leaving home. Actually, it seemed more like a “mine is louder than yours” competition.
On top of these, and these chatter of the Indians, there were several families with numbers of young children – too many of whom were tearing around the places on bikes. Unfortunately, not all of the kids had been educated in camp ground manners, about things like running through any site they felt like.
The group of trail bike riders had laid claim to the camp kitchen, congregating there to sit round drinking and talking – not cooking – in such a way to make it impossible for others to use it for doing a BBQ or other cooking. Yes – holidays bring forth the worst sort of fellow campers.
John tried to phone our order through to the pizza place, but the phone stayed busy. In the end, he decided to just go and get our meal, and put up with a wait. I wanted a puttanesca pizza and John a hot and spicy one. He had to wait in the very busy shop for nearly half an hour, before collecting them. It cost $43 for the two – of a size I would call medium. They were rather too thinly topped for my liking, especially given the price. The base sauce appeared to just be tomato paste, smeared on – there was lots of it visible between the meagre bits of topping – and only a very light scattering of cheese on my pizza. I think making our own pizzas at home has rather spoiled us for the commercial product.
John phoned a friend from teacher college days, who lives near Bendigo, to see if we could go visit him and park at his place on Sunday. Disappointingly, he wouldn’t be home. So we decided to just make our way home again on Sunday.
John watched football on TV, after dinner. I went to bed early, and read for a while. The background noise of the TV did not keep me awake for long. All this fresh mountain air tires me out!
Today was cooler. We’d had rain through the night and some showers this morning.
I find it very cosy, lying in bed in Bus, listening to rain on the roof, knowing we do not have to worry about it leaking, as was always the case with the van, after that incredibly incompetent RV solar power “expert” wrecked the roof for us.
Daughter’s birthday today. She had texted me on Tuesday to say that the card and gift I’d sent her from home, had arrived. This morning, I texted her extra birthday wishes.
After last night’s bottle of wine, we decided to leave early enough to call in at Michelini at Myrtleford and stock up on some more of their merlot.
Hops growing near Myrtleford
The Michelini cellar outlet was on the western outskirts of Myrtleford – a newish-looking establishment, somewhat Tuscan in appearance.
The Michelini story is an interesting one: post WW2 migration to Australia, hard work, an eye for opportunity and courage to grasp same. In 1970 the founder moved to the area to grow tobacco, but noted climatic similarities to his home region of the Italian Alps. This prompted him to try growing cool climate grape varieties from there, presumably initially for private consumption. But the venture grew, the times were right, and the first commercial vintage happened in 1997.
We found their range of wines not as extensive as that of Browns – would not have expected it to be – but it covered reds and some whites. Although we knew what we’d come for, we did taste a couple of other wines, for future reference. Bought a dozen of their Devils Creek merlot, which was only $10 a bottle, which we found unreal. And we were given a bonus extra bottle. Joined their Wine Club, which meant that shipping our dozen home was free. I didn’t think we would have any trouble buying the dozen bottles a year that the membership entails! We took our bonus bottle away with us. What a find!
Old kilns repurposed, Myrtleford
Drove on to Beechworth. The town was teeming with tourists and so busy. We were lucky and found a parking spot virtually outside the Beechworth Bakery – our meeting place for lunch.
Decided Couey would have to stay in the car. Originally I’d thought that we might be able to eat at one of the footpath tables outside, and have her with us, but it was a bit chilly and there were too many people crowding past them.
Instead we were immediately lucky inside, and found a booth to sit at. The place was humming. I think a couple of tour buses had deposited their clientele nearby and sent them in the Bakery direction.
I found the lack of a system for dealing fairly with such numbers disappointing. There was a queue, of sorts, to one side, with four or five people serving, but a number of people just walked straight in and up to the counter, ahead of those who were queueing. They should have had some sort of take and number and wait to be called system.
Yet again, the pasty option was a vegetarian one! Yet again, John resorted to the old carnivorous standby of pepper pie. I had a roasted vegetable focaccia, which was excellent.
Over lunch and a couple of coffees, we had a good catch-up talk with my friend. The three of us then collected Couey from the car and took her for a walk, down past the bowls club, to a grassy area where she could have an off-lead run. Friend is a dog person, about to acquire a chocolate Labrador puppy. She was very taken with our girl.
After a very enjoyable few hours, drove back to camp the way we had come, via Myrtleford. It was a pretty drive, as they all are around here, at this time of year. By the time we’d lunched and talked and walked, it was too late to go exploring further afield. Yackandandah would have to wait for another day.
Couey had another riverside walk and play in the river.
John had fancied more bread and Milawa cheeses for tea, so had bought himself a fresh bread roll at Beechworth. I had soup and a salad – and some cheese.
Friend F from Griffith phoned. They had been travelling, with their van, in WA and stumbled across a Hino bus that had been partly converted to a motorhome, and was for sale at a bargain price. Obviously, F had been impressed by our Bus lifestyle when we’d camped with them a few years back, because they bought it. They had just driven it back to NSW, had it checked over and registered there, then flew back to WA to resume their van trip north to Newman, Karijini and across the Top End. Sounded to me like they’d gotten a bargain.
It was another lovely day, with more sight seeing. There was some cloud build up through the day, though.
We set out to drive over the range via the Tawonga Gap, and make a circuit back to Porepunkah. This would take us from the Ovens Valley, over to the Kiewa River valley, and back.
Refuelled the Terios at Bright. No one can accuse these travellers of not spending money locally!
Spent some more at the Snow Farms roadside stall, located at the corner of the Alpine Road and the Tawonga Gap road. A very strategic position. John initially stopped because he wanted to buy some chestnuts. Seems it was chestnut season. These are a product I know little about, except that I tried one years ago and did not like it. He seemed confident that he knew how to prepare and eat them, though. We also bought a couple of half kilo bags of walnuts in the shell – good sized ones, some local Pink Lady and Jonathan apples, and a lot of local garlic. That is something I use a lot of, and much prefer to have the Australian grown product that has not been chemically treated. Overall, a good haul.
Onto the winding, steadily climbing Gap Road. The Terios really handled the hilly, winding roads well. Might be a little car, but it really punches above its weight in terms of versatility.
Tawonga Gap road
Came across a wallaby on the road that appeared as if it had just been hot by a vehicle. A couple of cars had just passed us, heading towards Bright. The poor thing was distressed and had a gaping wound under a front leg. When we slowed the car, it hopped off towards the scrub. There wasn’t anything we could do, except leave it in peace and hope it recovered. At least it was off the road. It put a dampener on our mood though.
Had a couple of stops at lookouts.
At Tawonga Gap
The first one gave detail of the building of the Tawonga Gap road – a slightly unusual history. In the late 1890’s, farmers around Tawonga, in the Kiewa valley, wanted a road built across the range so they could get their produce to the railway at Bright. A deal was done that saw the Bright Shire build the road, after a section of the Yackandandah Shire was separated off and given to Bright. The new road opened in 1896.
Plaque at lookout
There were great views over the Kiewa valley, with its string of little villages along the valley length.
The Kiewa River valley
A short distance further on, another lookout gave us views over Mt Beauty township towards Mt Bogong.
View across the valley towards Mt Bogong
It really is beautiful country, though winters can be so cold. Daughter worked a few snow seasons at Mt Beauty, over twenty years ago now. Her seasonal job in a ski hire shop dovetailed nicely with her equally seasonal job in an outdoor education camp facility, that closed down over winters.
Mt Beauty township
The trip down the range to the valley was much shorter than the trip up the western side had been.
Think we had a total lapse of focus when we reached the Kiewa Valley Highway. Intended to visit Tawonga South and Mt Beauty, and so should have turned right. But something distracted us and John went left. We were kilometres further on before it occurred to me. Too far to back track. Next time…
Down in the valley…
This morning, we’d discussed including Yackandandah on the round trip. But John thought we could tour that, and Beechworth, on another day. He wanted to head straight to Myrtleford – and a pasty lunch! He was also very keen to visit a machinery sales place he’d noticed there, to find out the price of a little machine that is a combined mower and baby front-end loader. A boy’s toy. He was justifying his interest by saying that it would move rocks for the rock walls he was contemplating rebuilding. News to me! So we took the Happy Valley road to Myrtleford. This was a much less hilly and winding road than the Tawonga Gap one.
On the Happy Valley road
At the Myrtleford Bakery – no pasties! So John bought a pepper pie. The shop sold focaccias filled to order, but just about all their filling containers were empty. It was only 1.15pm too. I got them to scrabble together a cheese, ham and pineapple focaccia from what was left in the containers. It was alright – just. John thinks I am too fussy about lunches. But pastry items play havoc with my gut, and I really dislike claggy white bread.
The machine John was coveting turned out to cost $21,000. He will not be getting one of those! The subject was promptly dropped – forever.
Back to Bus. A Couey walk and river games filled in what remained of the afternoon. At one point she got into a bit of a current in the river, and had to swim and battle a bit, but didn’t panic. She loved it all.
Tea was the same as last night. There was plenty of the bread loaf left, and it was only slightly stale.
I phoned a friend and former work colleague who now lives in Wodonga, and we arranged to meet in Beechworth tomorrow, at midday, for lunch.
On these cold nights, the Bus beds were really cosy and warm to sleep in, despite being a bit on the narrow side.
Usual morning routine for dog and me. It was so pleasant sitting outside with my breakfast and coffee, looking at the brilliant tree display, that I wasn’t worried how late John slept.
We set out to visit the Milawa area, home to lots of food and wine-related establishments.
It meant driving some sixty kms, each way, but that was a pleasure with the weather and scenery as it was.
Pleasant driving through the Ovens River valley
Amongst the information that I’d liberated from the visitor centre in Bright was a promo leaflet that listed lots of cheese and wine outlets, and showed their locations on mud map type diagrams.
Milawa Cheeses was an appealing sounding place to start today’s explorations, so I attempted to direct John there. We overshot the road leading there, it seemed, despite my best navigational efforts. Did a U-ey. Thought I’d read the map wrongly. But then realized that, somehow, the maps were like mirror images. What they showed as being on the left of the road was actually on the right. Milawa Cheeses was not on the Oxley side of Milawa, as the map indicated. Totally confusing.
We eventually found the place, up its side road. It was a bigger establishment than I’d expected and was doing a roaring lunch service. Diners were eating on a covered outdoor area, screened from the driveway by lush, hanging grapevines, now turning deep red. It was really lovely. I was so busy admiring the place that I didn’t think to take a photo, for which I kicked myself later.
The lunch menu looked interesting. Most items featured their cheeses, in some form. There were several unusual pizza offerings too. The place was also a bakery, with bread and items like pies. As we’d started out rather late, it was lunch time already and John would have eaten lunch there, had they stocked a meat and vegie pastie, instead of purely a vegie one. The man had his heart set on a “proper” pastie for lunch. I bought a vegetarian focaccia, anyway, to take away for my lunch. Got to get the sort of things I like when I can!
We sampled a range of their cheeses and bought several yummy wedges, including a beautifully runny Brie. John indulged his taste with a piece of their blue cheese; he would be eating that alone. It smelled out the Bus fridge for the rest of the trip, until it was all consumed. Like old shoes – powerful stuff!
He also bought a couple of goats milk cheeses – not to my taste, either. We bought a little cooler bag, with ice, to carry it all in – an extra $10.
Since it was already looking like tonight’s dinner would be cheeses, I bought some suitably artisan looking bread from the bakery section.
Proceeded on to Milawa township, looking for the bakery there. It was next to a shop selling olive products, amongst other tourist-geared items. Sampled some local olive oils and bought one very flavoursome one – destined for bread dipping. Yum. Also bought a vacuum pack of assorted local olives, ranging from tiny green ones through to plump kalamata ones.
Alas for John, the bakery too only had vegie pasties, so he bought a pepper pie. We sat out in the car park, eating our lunches. I found there was a bit too much olive paste on my focaccia, otherwise it was really enjoyable.
Cruised slowly past the little Milawa Caravan Park and decided it would be adequate for an overnighter, if we want to make a quick “food” raid at some time in the future. It would certainly be convenient.
Our next, and final, stop was at the iconic Brown Brothers Wines, with its beautiful grounds and interesting old buildings. We had not intended originally to come here, but since it is so much a part of the development of Milawa as a gourmet centre, it seemed somehow wrong to miss it.
The first Brown’s vineyard and winery dates from the 1880’s.
Historic machinery display at Brown Brothers Winery
We sampled some of their wide range of wines and, of course, ended up buying half a dozen bottles, even though I had a sneaking suspicion that our local supermarket would match, or even better, the cellar door prices here. John liked their Moscato Rose and included three of those. I chose the Tempranillo Graciano.
It is really interesting to note how many new varieties of grape/wine have come out of this region in recent years – due to its migrant heritage and wine making tradition. Browns have been well involved with this, but not the only winemakers to work at broadening the Australian palate.
Grounds at Brown Brothers
It was time to go back to camp, before we dented the plastic even more.
I did notice that, over the road from Brown Brothers, was a pleasant looking 24 hour RV park, for self contained vehicles. What a great idea. I bet it promotes sampling and purchases. There were a few motorhomes parked there, too, and it was still quite early in the afternoon.
As we drove back, talked about the decline of the tobacco growing industry that used to dominate the Ovens Valley. It was ten years since tobacco growing ceased, with government buy out of growing quotas in 2006. The signs of decline had probably been there for a couple of decades, in part due to the rise of anti-smoking sentiment. There was decreased government support for the industry and encouragement of research into alternative products for the region. In the end it became a familiar story in the Australian context: the overseas companies still making cigarettes preferred to use cheaper tobacco from other places.
Victorian Alps in the distance
The many corrugated iron drying sheds that occur all along the valley are a reminder of the tobacco industry days.
We saw some farms growing hops, on tall trellises. Now, I don’t think the product made from hops is going to decrease in demand any time soon!
Couey, who had spent most of the Milawa trip in the car, was rewarded with a walk along the riverside track, and a play in the river.
Tea was good crusty bread, olive oil and cheeses. Sooo delicious…. With it we drank a bottle of Devils Creek merlot that we’d bought on Sunday from a display in the park office. That was made by Michelini Wines at Myrtleford, who we’d never heard of. After sampling the product, we promised ourselves to visit there before we left the district.
Last night, after we had relaxed and absorbed some of the atmosphere here, John said he wouldn’t mind extending our stay here longer, maybe even for all of our available time. Seems the idea of packing up and moving further on had lost its appeal. I wasn’t upset by this – I like it here, too, and could always file away the Corryong area for another time.
So after the usual morning dog walk – along the riverside path towards Porepunkah village – I checked with the office. Found we could extend on our current site until Thursday, but on Friday would have to move sites. Even then, could only stay until Sunday morning. Fair enough and actually a bit of a surprise. We hadn’t realized it until our arrival, but the annual Autumn Festival, in nearby Bright, begins on Friday. So accommodation in these parts would be at a real premium. Our site fees would be higher for Friday and Saturday, jumping to $58.50 a night after discount. Still, we counted ourselves lucky to manage a week here.
The day was another beautiful, sunny, warm one.
We drove into Bright. Went to the Information Centre. There, of course, John enquired about bowls and was told of a couple of occasions when he could play, during our planned time here. I, of course, collected some sightseeing information. I bought a jar of local crab apple jelly, to give to our flat tenant for keeping an eye on our place.
John was attracted to a chocolate making establishment in old of the old buildings in the river side precinct and went to investigate. He was hoping there might be a tour and demonstration, but not today. He managed to leave the place without buying any of their product – well done, him.
Bright Chocolate Factory
We parked the Terios down by the Ovens River, in central Bright.
Ovens River in Bright
Couey was soooo anxious to investigate the water, so we let her off the lead at the river’s edge – and she was in. She splashed and cavorted and chased sticks and generally had a great time.
Dog in there
Then we walked around some of the shopping centre, drying out dog, looking in windows, checking out what was there. The area was quite busy.
Everywhere we looked, there were trees in glorious autumn colours – and plenty of fallen leaves about too.
We were standing outside a bakery, trying to work out where to walk next, when a lady asked if this was the only bakery in town? We must have looked like locals – maybe it was the wet dog with us? She said that she and her husband had been recommended to go to the bakery on the edge of town, but they weren’t sure if this was it. She then went on to explain that they were rather wary about where they obtained food here. They had been up to Mt Hotham for a drive and had seen a man lying underneath his caravan, there. He was really ill from food poisoning. Told her he was in the region for a wedding and had eaten at an hotel in Bright. He was too ill to continue driving, and his wife did not drive the rig, so they were rather stranded. Our lady’s husband had offered to drive their rig down the mountain, because she could drive their car. But the sick man and wife dithered around and couldn’t make up their minds what to do, so the people we were talking to had left them to it. When you hear about something like that, it does make you think twice about where you eat.
I took a photo of a sign under a big pine tree: “Beware of large falling cones”. Couey has a passion for finding pine cones and carrying them as we walk, but the area under the tree was without any booty for her.
Stand under at own risk
John was in a mood to explore, so we drove out the Alpine Road, towards Harrietville.
Went into a salmon and trout farm that we came upon, where one can catch their own trout, as well as buy the products. There was a family there, of Middle Eastern appearance, trying their luck in one of the ponds and seeming rather frustrated by the process. John was not inclined to try the fishing. I do not eat trout, anyway – to me it is akin to eating river mud with lots of added bones. Cannot see the appeal. With our recent conversation outside the bakery in mind, I was not tempted into buying any of the salmon pate, or other offerings, so we left again. The shop and office had been unattended anyway.
On the way back to Bright, detoured to have a quick look at the caravan park at Freeburgh. Friend M usually stays there, with friends, for two or three weeks, every summer, and loves the place. We decided that it looked quite pleasant, and it was dog friendly too. Would tuck that one away in the future reference mental file, although I don’t think we could do much better than where we are.
I did a quick trip into a supermarket for some olive oil and a jar of sweet and sour sauce.
Had a late lunch back at Bus, then we took dog for a walk along the riverbank track, towards Porepunkah village. Managed to keep her from trying to clamber down the steep banks to the water, though she clearly wanted to go exploring same. Told her she’d had her water “fix” this morning.
Tea was a chicken sweet and sour stir fry, and rice.
John tried to phone a friend from home, who was holidaying in Bright, with a mind to playing bowls together. But there was not answer.
The nights here were chilly, but Bus was cosy enough, without needing the heater.